Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Anson

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

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George Anson, 1st Baron (1697-1762)
Admiral and naval reformer; entered the navy, 1712; voyaged round the world, 1740-44; attacked the Spanish in the Pacific, burning Payta in Peru; defeated the French at Finisterre, 1747; admiral of the blue, 1748, first lord of the admiralty, 1751-56 and 1757-62; [1] A Voyage Round the World, compiled 1748 from his papers by his chaplain.

518 After a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of 1755
Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (1270 x 1016 mm), pale blue eyes, pale complexion, double chin, white wig; white lace cuffs, white neck-tie tucked inside waistcoat, flag officer's full dress uniform of 1748-67, hat under his left arm, the hand resting on what appears to be a stone ledge; [2] two ships at anchor, the nearer flying a blue flag at the main mast and a blue ensign at the stern, sun dipping behind the horizon; lit from top left.

NPG 518 was received via the British 'Museum as a copy after Reynolds from a picture at Wimpole. Although it follows his design, Reynolds' hand is nowhere apparent, and the canvas may not be quite contemporary. It is first documented in 1810 (see Collections). Records of Wimpole are not extensive and indicate only one portrait in 1798, listed by Musgrave next to a portrait of the sitter's wife, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Hardwicke. [3] In neither case is an artist named. A portrait by Hoare was sold from the house in 1924 and verified in the sale room as signed and dated 1753.

The original of NPG 518, according to Waterhouse, was painted mainly in 1754 with further sittings on 21 and 23 February 1755, and apparently finished that June. [4] It seems to have been painted for, or presented to, Admiral Sir Peircy Brett, lieutenant of the 'Centurion' at Payta, great-grandfather of Sir George Bowyer from whose sale, Christie's, 6 May 1871, lot 122, it was purchased by the Earl of Lichfield. It would thus never have gone to Wimpole. Graves and Cronin note a portrait in the collection of Sir William Reynell Anson, Bart, and two others of Anson and Saunders which were burnt at Flixton Hall, collection Sir Shafto Adair, 12 December 1846. Sir Charles Saunders (1713?-75) paid Reynolds for 'Lord Ansons Picture' a second payment, in November 1764.  [5] Another version of NPG 518 is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [6]

Condition: surface cleaned five times, varnished four times and relined between 1895 and 1901.

Collections: transferred, 1879, from the British Museum to whom presented 12 March 1814 by the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, a trustee from 1802, and presumably previously there on loan; Planta's catalogue of Montagu House records a portrait of Anson in 1810. [7]

Engraved: the type engraved by J. McArdell, 1755. [NPG D357]

Literature: British Museum. A Guide to the Exhibition Rooms, 1867; C.R.L. Fletcher, E. Walker and C.F. Bell, Historical Portraits, 1909-19.

Iconography
The portraiture of Anson has not previously been studied and some confusion has arisen. The bulk of the portraits, apart from those in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, are still at the Anson family home Shugborough (Countess of Lichfield). [8] Thomas, great-nephew of the sitter, was created Earl of Lichfield, 1831. A portrait by Pond, previously attributed to Hudson, Shugborough (47), was engraved by C. Grignion, [NPG D1358] 1744. Another by Hudson, in peer's robes, Shugborough (28), was painted probably c.1747, the year of his victory over the French off Finisterre when he was also created a baron. A version attributed in the past to Bockman, Royal collection (Millar, 557) is probably a copy. A portrait by the Dutch artist J. Wandelaar (1690-1759), formerly attributed to Romney, the head and shoulders engraved by Houbraken [NPG D7072] as painted in 1751, is at Goodwood. [9] A head and shoulders by Hoare, signed and dated 1753, formerly at Wimpole, was in the Hardwicke sale, Christie's, 27 June 1924, lot 137. This, presumably is the picture first lent to the British Institution, 1820 (25). The other firmly dated type is the Reynolds of 1755, Shugborough (37), of which NPG 518 is a copy. A fine pastel, undated, possibly by Cotes, Shugborough (58) as by Pond, shows flag officer's undress uniform of 1748-67. Anson also appears in a crudely painted group of George II receiving Hawke and Pitt. A marble bust attributed to Roubiliac, Shugborough (19), together with a companion portrait of the sitter's wife, was lent to the exhibition 'Works of Art from Midland Houses', Birmingham, 1953 (184, 185). A medal by T. Pingo commemorates the 1747 Finisterre victory. [10] A medallion by W. Tassie is in the Scottish NPG (503).

Doubtful portraits
A naval portrait described as Anson by Hayter, though of age 40 c.1750, is recorded by Duleep Singh at The Grange, Old Buckenham (Major Keppel), 1907. [11] A head and shoulders of a captain in the full dress uniform of 1748-67, called Anson, Shugborough (46), may represent his friend Sir Peircy Brett (1709-81), a whole length of a flag officer with legs crossed, Shugborough (30), known as Anson by Romney, is almost certainly Boscawen (q.v. Boscawen, Edward) by Ramsay and two three-quarter lengths at Greenwich (32-12, 39-1754) also remain doubtful when compared with authentic portraits. The latter, French school, presented 1939, includes a black servant and the battle of Finisterre in the background. [12] A small whole length, sold Colnaghi's, October 1908, has been described as Anson. [13] Faber junior's engraving after Ramsay of Admiral the Hon. Charles Stewart (1681-1741) was used as a portrait of the sitter and inscribed Johnson fecit 1747. [14]

Notes
1. For his appointments, GEC, I, pp.172-3.
2. Not clearly realised; in McArdell's engraving, the fluke of an anchor.
3. BM Add MS 6391, f.19.
4. Graves and Cronin, I, p.26; Waterhouse, 1968, pp.118, 141; last exh. 'Art Treasures of the Midlands', Birmingham, 1934 (436).
5. Cormack, p.136.
6. Catalogue, summary, 1955, p.55.
7. Information from J.R.F. Thompson, BM, 1962. If Musgrave's list is complete, a portrait was still at Wimpole in 1798.
8. Now National Trust; portraits reproduced Country Life, CXV, 1954, pp.510-13 and 590-3.
9. Fletcher, III, reproduced opposite p.184; H. Ward and W. Roberts, Romney, 1904, II, p.4, describe it, incorrectly, as a copy by Romney of the 1755 Reynolds type.
10. Forrer, IV, p.556.
11. Duleep Singh, I, p.50.
12. NMM Catalogue, 1961, p.3 (39-1754), from the Caird Collection; repr. Annual Report, Society for Nautical Research, 1938, p.104, as by J.B. Vanloo.
13. V. Manners and G.C. Williamson, Zoffany, 1920, p.214.
14. G.S. Layard, Catalogue... of... British Portraits from Altered Plates, 1927, p.117.